Cochlear Map Boosts Understanding of How Hearing Works Employing a technique that generates high-resolution, three-dimensional images, researchers are mapping the tissues within the cochlea—the portion of the inner ear responsible for hearing. Their research, which appears in the Journal of Neurophysiology, could lead to breakthroughs in understanding of cochlear function, says author Brian Applegate, associate professor in the ... Research in Brief
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Research in Brief  |   September 01, 2014
Cochlear Map Boosts Understanding of How Hearing Works
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Hearing & Speech Perception / Research in Brief
Research in Brief   |   September 01, 2014
Cochlear Map Boosts Understanding of How Hearing Works
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, 18. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB2.19092014.18
The ASHA Leader, September 2014, Vol. 19, 18. doi:10.1044/leader.RIB2.19092014.18
Employing a technique that generates high-resolution, three-dimensional images, researchers are mapping the tissues within the cochlea—the portion of the inner ear responsible for hearing. Their research, which appears in the Journal of Neurophysiology, could lead to breakthroughs in understanding of cochlear function, says author Brian Applegate, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Texas A&M University.
Because the cochlea is small, and encapsulated and obscured by dense bone, there is little information about how the cochlea amplifies sound and converts vibrations into nerve impulses. New information about how the cochlea works, however, is emerging, thanks to this system. Capable of rendering detailed images of tissues within an intact cochlea, the system employs a technique known as optical coherence tomography. OCT is similar to ultrasound but generates images with much higher resolution. The images are produced from measurements of the inner ear’s structure and the incredibly small vibrations within the cochlea, Applegate says.
The model allows the researchers to use the technology on a hearing system similar to the one in humans—that of mice. Among the team’s findings is evidence suggesting different areas of the cochlea are responsible for different aspects of hearing. Specifically, gain (the amplification of sound) and narrowing of the frequency band (which enables a person to zero in on a specific sound) occur in distinct areas. Until now, these functions have been thought to be closely linked, possibly occuring in the same location.
The team developed a prototype device for use on humans. The device, a hand-held instrument, enables a user to pass a probe through the ear canal and tympanic membrane to shine a laser through a thin membrane on the cochlea. This makes it possible to image the inner ear tissues.
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September 2014
Volume 19, Issue 9